Try I Bark – Patrick Farmer and the delicate brush against the surface of all things.(Book Review)

This book is written to be read out loud and outside” Patrick Farmer

I had not planned in not planning   to meet anything other than myself-

I write so I can be silent though silence begs to be heard

Beauty exists.

Just as beauty exists in the depths, the fissures, the unplummetable and the unfathomable, so it exists in the delicate, the lightness of the touch, the breath of the wind on the skin, that which can be inhaled through the eye.

Patrick Farmers book, Try I bark deals with the complex matter of beauty. It is difficult to say what “beauty” unnattched to any object is.  Farmer speaks a language of mediation and interaction on/with the immediacy of sensory adherence.  The meditative stare associated with the touch, the sound, the sight of other/object; the moment of connection between object and sensory adherence to object. The cellular transaction, the unique blending, the infinitesimally small (and yet universally enormous) circulatory moment we “know” – just prior to our colonization through meaning and interpretation.  Try – I bark.  Just try.  Let it go and feel it. And yet, he withdraws from the object at the same time because (as Elaine Scarry would say) “it reminds us us that the benign impulse toward creation results not just in famous paintings but in everyday acts of staring; it also reminds us that the generative object continues, in some sense, to be present in the newly begotten object.”

my function is to sit

with polistes dominula

until it wishes me to leave

i hope it’s soon

move when the leaves move,

a flagpole with no flag moves

happy for itself, the floor

does not have to make sense

whilst all else is communicating.

Try I bark is six “sections” in a very human experience of an encounter with the world. The book opens with two quotes:

“heautoscopy was compared with an hallucinosis; for centuries this was a great mythic theme. but today it is as we have repressed the profound madness…”

Camera Lucida – Roland Barthes


“and her look touching the air between us like a hand alive to the difficulty that may not be touched out-not once, not for the smallest moment; and the world be only what it is.”

And her look touching the air – Kenneth Patchen

The quotes give some head way into the direction the reader will move held in Patrick Farmers handsome fist. The first tells us of a lost profound madness Farmer will make available and the second speaks to the embracing of openness and an allowance for the world in its existence. The message here is an invitation to an alternative, an engagement with object related experience without immersion. There is only to feel, think and be, in Farmers narrative – nothing to be gained other than what is offered – the world only being what it is.

The musical words start in the first section with a bold typed insistence on space rather than recognition. The reader is expected to move through with trust.  This is the open field, the heady scent of ocean spray, the earthy musk and crunch underfoot of the forest floor, the sharp direct point of a beak. An initial confrontation with the enormity of the profound madness is a screaming release of self…

Falsing men

Addition. Unseen measurement

All ill, cling to flocks-

Herds recording immeasurable

See myself men outside of this inside my insides crumble- adjourn.

A kind of physical shift awaits, some sort of response/reaction to what is presented. It’s almost as if Farmer is willing a stillness out of the whitewash of being some place other than within the profound madness.

I am nothing for you

That I do not know I cannot already be,

Do not gamble my dress

Face me inside your plunging loathing

By the time we reach “two” and through to the end of  “four”, Farmers fingerprints are all over us and we have fallen properly, frenzied, tidally back with the whitewash, the calm and lucidity of the meditative capacity he opens up enveloping the reader as “imagination stills the breasts of language.” The writing flows like a gentle brook, language folding-felt-like in and over itself, the embrace of stillness or the silence Farmer knows so well. This is a velveteen landscape, the apotheosis of the kind of serenity a brook evokes.

Just as Farmer reveals what has been right in front of us all along through the organisation of his words, so he encourages an expansive reading through the poetics of the physical organisation of what lies on the page before us. Structure is more than poetic rhyme, and metre.  It is a physical imposition space, something that tends to be the domain of poetry.  Fiction will venture a little into this stylistic nether world, but for the most part, it is left to the steely feathered assault poetry delivers for us to accommodate these sorts of alterations.  Farmer wants us to see what is in front of us, however and sometimes that takes a certain kind of movement. A movement he lifted from poetry.  This is a piece of writing that will take a lot from poetry – poetry as a universe – but it is not a poem. Or perhaps it is a poem.  As with many avant guard works, it is easier to define it by what it is not.  It is not a poetic novel or a novel approach to poetry. It is a gentle collision with beauty, moved through subtlety into words.

what might have been is /been/being been/what has happened/has not having/happened all that/has happened/is happening in/the truth of this/moment gone this moment/i stay until/i leave/when/i leave i do/not know/what is/happening/until i return/and/change/everything/in  presence  in  order/to  continue/a/not/knowing/in  a  definite/knowing something of not/what i am/experiencing a need/for categorisation/abhorrent and full/of permutations of angles space/of depth/or the potential/for/such/for/varying layers varying ideas existing/to purchase circles/of the idea/that everyone is tired of catching noise


In this way every page is an event.

It is in “five” that the event of existing moves through to an affirmative erotic response. Gently we are moved toward pleasure then Jouissance or a knowing that must be felt. “A task feels done, a question must be an answer…” says Farmer. There is no existence without sensory knowing. Immediately beyond this is the weight of knowledge – even that we have learned not to process. “I crouch in the gravel now-“ and then “the crab apples are not for me, I keep the company of five granite slabs.” Words will appear sometimes as if they are bitten off, half formed, or amputated. “I am always disturbing birds” Farmer tells us. “as they are never disturbing me.”

We now move through to the tragically beautiful embodiment of eros:

… the water is warmer to my knees evidently that’s why it all states back at me and I cannot move regardless of any one or the things feelings that all i care about is the jetty so we all go for the last time again, and I am scattered everywhere I am scattered everywhere i am scattered everywhere with gusto with ignorant gratification i am awful to be here when i am going without them then I am going then I shall know for going in all my life I have not been going further than where I have gone is not very far, perhaps to the jetty and back though in all we find it surprising to think we have never come to blows as far as another was involved  it was involved bellowing cautious puffed up mounds of actual who knows what, but we all needed food, and no doubt we all needed toilet…


“Six” begins with the bold letters hap pened.  There is movement again a kind of return, altered and not altered also. “..concupiscence betrays me, seeks me throughout my mistakes…” Farmer reminds us. “I write so I can be silent, though silence begs to be heard.”  “We all carry the potential of petrified wood,” is a movement away from what we saw and what we felt. In the erotic crashing into the body, comes the life affirming sadness of existence. “I try not to look for experience in objects” Farmer says, as if to negate our attempts at sophistication.

Although there are six sections here, moving from the lightness of the feather touch through to the profundity of erotic desire and on to a kind of self negation in the final pages, every page is its own event and complete within itself. The work reads in a continuous flow, while every page stops and starts the reading experience. Farmer uses the page and all it imposes rather than revoking its demands. There is no pause for reflection here, this is not a book to immerse in the search for “answers” – Farmer doesn’t want to be a sage on a rock – but at the same time the words exist as a net catching the light butterflies of being alive as it presents itself to the writer and then the reader who partners this writer in order to bring something to life.


i am writing all of this writing i am here it would not have occurred other than i am here for doing so this is my doing to appeal to an idea and then doing never done whilst sat here thinking of doing i start to write immediately filling up with bridges of imagistic equivalents clamouring to be writing to understand writings doing and doing to understand my writing if that is not at all possible i am not sure if understanding ones writing is understanding oneself of that moment circling and circles each a new self similar self claiming everything self so a doing is not an understanding of what one is thought of being so inclined as i have said to certain people that this feels like my way of being here weighty and relentless in feeling my state staring back in environment  to no other so this writing is mooste is tartu is tallinn is no other will be no other no change no alteration beyond reach never the same interpretation never the same sequence of ideas and events i am as much or as little and as much being a middle aged couple descending crooked steps i see through a window  that the  smoke contains their appearance though my eyes are already elsewhere



Patrick Farmer’s prose work, Try I Bark is available here.

Below are the notes on the website:

Compost and Height and Organized Music from Thessaloniki are pleased to announce the joint publication of try i bark, Patrick Farmer’s first book of prose.
Limited to an edition of 120, try i bark is the direct result of Farmer’s time spent in the Estonian parish of Mooste, where he was MOKS artist-in-residence during the summer of 2011.

Having undertaken the residency with the intention of making field recordings, Farmer found his response to the environment generating a body of writing. The work explores what he describes as the “delicateness of interpretation, of knowing one’s own [response] and how easy it is to misplace”. As well as capturing something of his encounter with the landscape, try i bark also questions the authorship of this encounter, posing questions as to how our experience, both internal and external, affects our reception of an object, event or situation.

Farmer’s observation that “silence is louder the moment one begins to listen” no doubt contributed to his decision to respond through text rather than microphones and recording devices. This strategy ties in with his wider conception of field recording, which he describes as having connections with Charles Olson’s ‘projective verse’, Roland Barthes’ ‘extreme disparity of structure’ and William Carlos Williams’ ‘variable foot’. During the composition of try i bark Farmer suggested he was often “unaware of what [he] was doing” yet proceeded intuitively finding that the “teeth of silver birch, the pine needles, the yawning cats, collapsed structures and wild boar all became shapes in the book”.

Since it was first written in July 2011, the text which now comprises try i bark has taken many forms. This includes a series of large scrolls exhibited alongside the work of Manfred Werder and Ben Owen in New Works, an exhibition curated by Compost and Height and shown at the Old Fire Station, Oxford as part of the Audiograft Festival 2012.